In her latest large-scale offering, housed at London's Heathrow Airport, Porto artist Vanessa Barragão builds on her repertoire of knitted art based on the impossibly vast variety of life that we have on Earth. It also comes with a message - this variety of natural life is something to celebrate and embrace, not destroy.
It is the essence of Barragão's work that it feels alive - whether by recreating natural forms or, at a more basic level, utilising such traditional techniques and natural fibres to incorporate a narrative of time and history into her intricate tapestries.
20 feet wide, entirely at odds with the clinical environment of an airport, sits Barragão's latest work, which displays the Earth in map-form, not simply woven as a scarf would be, but with various techniques being utilised to give her map the sense of a hallucinogenic reality that seems to interact with the life going on around her. In a busy environment, it's a breath of fresh-air.
The piece took around 520 hours from start-to-finish, and weaves together stories of the continents depicted, not through their industrial or material culture, but of the flora and fauna that is native to their lands.
In Africa we see coffee and in China, their Ginko Biloba. This rich life contrasts with the arid and dry deep reds of Australia, representing its desert core. From a distance, although these details stand out, their meticulous colouring and impeccable depth of technique remain hidden until further inspection. Because of this quality, a closer inspection is exactly what those passing by are doing - stopping in their tracks momentarily as they stroll through purgatory, between two lands.
Highlighting the value of nature to our planet isn't new for the Portuguese artist, in Coral Garden she makes a statement about the heavy impact of the textile industry - from its dying techniques to production and transportation - in another deeply immersive work that uses an artisanal rug store's deadstock to make a contrasting coral image, again using time-honoured techniques.
Barragão's work resonates with an emerging audience globally, one that is becoming more conscious not only of what they consume through food, but how we consume as a whole, like our watching habits, what we wear and how we behave. It's a global shift that has come to the fore after our connected age has become aware of the destructive behaviours that have led up to this point. Change is coming, on various fronts. With art in mind, little-by-little, Vanessa Barragão is teaching more people about a return to older and more primitive ways - of caring and of conscious self-expression.
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